Cleveland’s got a good pitching staff. It’s part of what got them to the World Series last year, and it’s what they’re hoping to ride to another playoff berth. They’re blessed with excellent arms like Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, Carlos Carrasco, Cody Allen and Danny Salazar.
Michael Martinez is not, by trade, a pitcher. He’s technically a hitter, but his career 33 wRC+ doesn’t exactly support that claim very well. The best way to describe Martinez from a job description standpoint would be to say that he’s a fielder, a utilityman, perhaps. He’s a survivor, who’s managed to stick on big league rosters in some capacity since 2011 despite being a nearly nonexistent asset at the plate. Martinez is the ultimate 25th man, who will be forever emblazoned in the visuals of history by making the out that won the Cubs their first World Series in more than a century. One of the jobs of a 25th man is to do anything that is required of him. And that means that in certain situations he’s a pitcher, too.
Cleveland was losing 10-4 to Chicago in the ninth inning last night, following a disastrous outing from Josh Tomlin. Rather than burn another reliever, Terry Francona turned to Martinez, his trusty 25th man. For the first time in his big league career, he took the mound. Martinez had somehow avoided the task until now, despite being the last man on the bench for some bad Phillies teams. The only other time he’d pitched was all the way back in A-ball in 2007, when he’d gotten into two games and totaled 1.2 innings of work. He did not allow a hit in either outing, because A-ball is a magical place.
The big leagues are not A-ball. The big leagues are full of hitters who sneeze at A-ball pitching, and one or two who hit like Michael Martinez. Everyone on the White Sox is technically a big league hitter. Yet we can all agree that there are more difficult assignments than innings composed of Carlos Sanchez, Omar Narvaez, Leury Garcia, and Tim Anderson.
Martinez’s first offering was a changeup, as was every other pitch he threw last night. It wasn’t all that bad, and his delivery was what evaluators like to call “free and easy.”
I'll say this: I'm fairly confident Michael Martinez the pitcher could retire Michael Martinez the hitter.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) April 14, 2017
All in all, the results of the outing weren’t all that bad. Martinez got three ground ball outs to his middle infielders, and also allowed a double over the head of center fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. “Center fielder Lonnie Chisenhall” is probably worthy of its own article, but we’ll stick with pitcher Michael Martinez for now.
Martinez’s pitches weren’t just fastballs that moved so slowly that they were called changeups. They had some nice little downward tumble on them, and a little bit of arm-side run. We’re certainly not looking at the next Christian Bethancourt here, because Martinez didn’t even attempt to see if he could throw 97. Martinez has one pitch that we know of. For a position player, his changeup isn’t a bad pitch at all. He even got Anderson to swing and miss.
Anderson swung and missed just a smidgen more often than Javier Baez last year, but that’s still a whiff for a position player masquerading as a pitcher. If that isn’t a moral victory, nothing is.
Cleveland likely won’t need a position player to do this very often this season. Run prevention is a massive strength of this team, between their pitching and their defense. Blowouts happen to everyone, but Cleveland will almost certainly be good at avoiding them as much as possible. It wouldn’t be shocking if this is the only time Martinez ever pitches in a big league game, given that he plays for an excellent team and that he’s 34 years old.
Between the minors and the majors, Martinez has thrown 2.2 scoreless innings of baseball, and allowed just one hit. He may be under the Mendoza line for his big league career as a hitter, but he’s played in the World Series, and he’s unbesmirched as a pitcher.
All in all, Michael Martinez has got it pretty good.
Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.